A helpline to provide psychosocial support to individuals experiencing anxiety and fear because of the pandemic coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been launched by the College of Arts and Humanities (CAH) of the Palawan State University (PSU).

Called “SHARE”, the helpline project was started Wednesday by the PSU arts and humanities college to reach out to Palaweños and be of help to them in “protecting their mental health and lessening the difficulties they are facing” as they stay home to prevent the deadly disease from affecting them and any of their family members.

Dean Restie Allan Puno of CAH said Thursday to Palawan News that anyone who feels he/she needs someone to talk to may call the number 0939-157-7890 that is open 24/7 to speak to a licensed professional or practitioner in the field.

He said the initiative was thought of by the CAH faculty as a home program for psychology and social work.

“We felt that we need to do something to help and since physical health ang ating kinakaharap na crisis, hindi naman natin maihihiwalay ‘yong physical sa mental health. Sabi namin, we need to address the mental health part,” Puno said.

“Kasi siyempre ngayon na nasa crisis tayo, may mga taong takot, yong iba ay anxious, may anxiety, yong iba ay may emotional instability. Sabi namin, dala kasi minsan ng sobrang takot, may mga tao na baka magkaroon ng depression or stress,” he added.

Puno said that the college decided to create a helpline to cater to individuals who feel that they can no longer control their fears brought by COVID-19 news all over, including the increasing mortality rates.

He stressed that it is important to also take care of the mental health of fellow Palaweños, not just their physical state alone.

Puno also said that the college thought about the university students who were stranded in their boarding houses and were not able to go home to their municipalities due to the suspension of transportation caused by ECQ.

Puno said that the university is extending help to over 30 students who were left stranded in the city.

“Basically, ang una rin nasa isip namin ay ang mga estudyante natin kasi di ba yong iba sa kanila ay hindi nakauwi sa kanilang mga munisipyo dahil nag-lockdown, nandito lang sa boarding houses nila. Baka may cases na kailangan din ng makakausap,” he said.

“Hindi lang limited sa ating mga estudyante, in-open na rin namin sa community baka kasi meron mga kailangan ng counseling. Sabi namin wala naman kami matutulong sa pisikal dahil di kami health frontliners, mental health na lang ang aming i-ensure,” Puno added.

Since they launched the hotline on March 25, SHARE has already catered to two callers.

Puno said residents who wish to receive mental support usually call at night when everything is already quiet. Times that are still and noiseless are usually when anxious thoughts enter the mind.

“May mga counselors na nakaantabay. In every call, ginagawa namin ay binibigay namin sa counselors at counselors na ang nagfa-follow up [kung ano yong magagawang tulong]. Kasi kailangan magsabi kasi we don’t know, mental health nga ito, psychological. Hindi naman natin makikita, parang virus din ito. Kailangan din talaga nila ng tulong,” Puno said.

“Kapag mag-ring yon, meron sasagot kasi minsan gabi yan sila kapag tahimik na. Usually ganyan ang aming experience, kapag gabi na, mag-isa na yong tao, doon na pumapasok yong thoughts na ganon. Nagsi-seek na ng help,” he added.

He said that the college also linked SHARE to the National Association of Social Workers and Philippine Mental Health-Palawan Chapter to serve as back up if the university can no longer accommodate the increase of queries and calls in the coming days.

“Maraming naa-alarma, yong iba nagkakaroon pa ng psychosomatic na experience, mga napapanood nila sa TV. Yon din ang isang rason kasi meron kaming kasama na feeling niya magkakasakit na rin siya, feeling niya para na siyang may symptoms,” he said.

Puno said that they expect an increase in the number of calls in the following days and said that the counselors are prepared for it.

He said they could also cater to calls even from outside the province if they could reach the SHARE Helpline.

Puno said they are eyeing the continuation of SHARE even after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“Ngayon talaga ay active siya kasi medyo prone ang mga tao for such mental condition. Kahit siguro matapos ang quarantine ay open pa rin siya kasi ina-advocate din namin ang mental health and we really want to ensure na mentally healthy ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

He encouraged the public to call the helpline if they feel the need to talk to someone and in need of assistance to surpass the problem or phase they are presently experiencing.

“If they feel that they need to talk to someone, if they are experiencing stress, emotional instability o yong iba ay nasa point of depression na, meron mga willing mag-support sa kanila, they just need to call us, “ he said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.